THE HAGUE, July 31 – Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic is to make his first appearance Thursday before the UN’s Yugoslav war crimes tribunal since his decade-long flight ended in arrest last week.
Judge Alphons Orie will officially inform Karadzic of the 11 counts of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity on the indictment, and give him an opportunity to plead.
Karadzic may choose to delay his plea by up to 30 days, by the end of which an automatic not-guilty plea would be entered on his behalf had he not done anything himself.
In the dock of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) for the first time, Karadzic will be given an opportunity to address the judge on such issues as his detention conditions and arrest.
Karadzic, 63, was arrested in Belgrade on July 21, 13 years after the tribunal first indicted him over atrocities committed during Bosnia’s 1992-95 war in which 100,000 people died.
Among the counts on the indictment are his alleged role in the 44-month siege of Sarajevo that left 10,000 dead, and the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of some 8,000 Muslim men and boys.
He faces life imprisonment if found guilty.
As he was transferred to the tribunal’s detention unit in The Hague early Wednesday, chief prosecutor Serge Brammertz said Karadzic’s trial may not start for months to come.
"It will be a complex trial…" he said. "In order to prove these serious crimes, the prosecution will have to present a significant amount of evidence including the testimony of many witnesses."
Brammertz added: "This arrest is a major achievement in Serbia’s cooperation" with the ICTY.
But efforts had to be made to capture Karadzic’s former military ally Ratko Mladic and Goran Hadzic, who is wanted for war crimes in Croatia.
"Without these arrests we cannot complete our mandate," the prosecutor said.
Serbia’s justice ministry said it had authorised Karadzic’s transfer to the ICTY after a Belgrade court ruled "that all conditions have been met for the turnover" despite efforts by the defendant and his lawyers to delay the move.
The man accused of involvement in an "ethnic cleansing" campaign against Bosnian Muslims and Croats has indicated his intention to conduct his own defence.
Karadzic spent at least some of his years in hiding disguised as a bearded, long-haired, alternative medicine guru, Doctor Dragan Dabic.